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Student Attitudes Towards the Market System : An Inquiry and Analysis Charles H . Breeden Marquette University Noreen E . Lephardt Marquette University It is common knowledge that individuals hold significantly different attitudes and beliefs concerning the legitimacy of market endeavors . Social philosophers have observed attitudes that range from those who believe that profit-seeking market activity is morally defensible and religiously redemptive ( Weber , Harrison , Sowell ) to be the observation that certain groups believe that even the simplest form of middleman activity is corrupt . In an attempt to understand and predict the differentials in economic growth between countries , there has also been a focus on human capital variables , such as education and native intellect . In recent years there has been an expansion into > social capital = attributes , such as trust and belief in
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the efficacy of free enterprise as predictors of economic success . In the research reported here , we study student attitudes and their academic achievement in learning economics . On the assumption that student attitudes toward the market system will vary in significant and predictable ways , we hypothesize that a student = s attitude toward the legitimacy of market activity may have an association with that student = s ability to learn economic principles . It may be that students who view market activity as morally wholesome will be better able to learn and recite economic truths . It may also be the case that students who do well in economics classes come to view economic forces in a happier light . It is also possible that student self-selection on the basis of grades received will lead to students taking higher level economics classes who are more favorably disposed toward market activity . Whatever the precise nature of the association between student attitudes and student learning , we note below that such associations do indeed exist . We also note and report significant differences in attitudes between demographic subcategories and between classes of students , as well as changes in attitudes over the time elapsed between our first survey of student attitudes ( 1992 ) and our most recent ( 1999 ).
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Values and economic prosperity The ability to build a predictive model of economic prosperity has engaged scholars for years . Initially the role of culture and psycho- social differences ( social capital ) had been assumed away from a Aleaner@ predictive statement using quantitative variables to economic success . However , recent differentials in the economic prosperity of countries , and an impressive global embracing of capitalism have led many scholars to a reexamination of the role of culture . Social capital variables have been utilized as predictors of economic performance by Gray ( 1996 ), Glasser and Glendon ( 1998 ), Grier ( 1997 ), Harrison ( 1992 ), and Knack and Keefer ( 1997 ). Scholarly research in economic development and in the history of economic thought has explored the role of social liberties ( freedom ) and institutional structures ( freedom of contract , stable money ) as prerequisites for economic propriety ( Boettke , 1999 ; Harrison , 1992 ). Boettke explored the theoretical arguments for including socio-cultural variables as factors to explain differences in a country = s economic growth . He also concurred with many other scholars that although it is difficult to measure qualitative differences in culture and attitudes , these variables add significantly to the explanation of a country = s economic propensity . Harrison ( 1992 )
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observed that much of the development differences in South American countries could be attributed to differences in values stemming from religious and other cultural traditions . In the field of economic education , research on values and attitudes has focused on the notion of attitudes as an important Anon-cognitive domain . @ The attitudinal research in economic education has focused on : $ The development of attitudinal inventories that are normed and tested for reliability and validity ( Soper and Walstad , 1983 ; O = Brien and Ingels , 1987 ). $ Research measuring student = s attitude towards the study of economics , and attitudinal changes after taking an economics course ( Whaples , 1995 ). $ Assessment of attitudes towards market fairness based on students = evaluation of content specific cases of economic activities such as market pricing ( Seligman and Schwartz , 1997 ). Research focus
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